April 12, 2007

Nostalgia Manila Interviews Top Filipino Vintage Japanese Robot Toy Collector Kim Castro

When we were kids we all used to dream of toy heaven. This was a place deep in our imagination, filled with all the amazing toys we could possibly think of. If you were a kid of the '70s and '80s, the photo below would be the closest thing to what toy heaven could possibly look like. Seems like a dream for most of us, but one lucky guy actually owns this amazing toy collection! His name is Kim Castro. Kim has been collecting rare vintage Japanese robot toys since 1999 and his collection is well known to many vintage anime enthusiasts worldwide.

His collection is definitely an impressive slice of toy heaven to classic anime fans like us. Nostalgia Manila is proud to bring you this interview we had with top Filipino toy collector Kim Castro.

Let's start from the beginning: Our readers would like to know how you got started in collecting die-cast Japanese robots from the 70's. As a child, what was the first Japanese robot toy you had? How did you acquire this toy? Did this particular toy spark your interest in collecting more?

First of all i would like to thank Nostalgia Manila for doing this interview. It is my pleasure to share with everyone my passion in collecting rare vintage Japanese robot toys.

It’s quite ironic that as child I did not really have any Japanese robot toys for myself. My mother bought my older brother a few Japanese robot toys during her trip to Hong Kong in 1980. The ones she got him were Voltes V, Gaiking, Great Mazinger, and a few others. Japanese toys were so expensive even during those days, and my mom decided that I was too young to play with these expensive toys. Although most of the toys were manufactured very well (most of them made with heavy die-cast metal) they still had breakable plastic parts that could easily get lost, or broken. But every vintage Japanese robot toy collector today knows that the detailing that goes with these kind of toys are what makes them unique, and the quality of how these toys were made were highly exceptional.

What is it that makes these kind of toys so special? As a child, what did you think made these toys so different from your other toys?

The makers of these toys obviously put so much imagination into designing them. They’re all very unique in their own way. I was very fond of my brother’s Voltes V. Unlike other toys I’ve seen, this one was heavy and made of die-cast metal, and the detailing that went into each vehicle was stunning. Five vehicles that transforms into one big robot I think would win any child’s heart.

What were your favorite toys growing up?

My favorites were Voltes V and Daimos.

What were your favorite Classic Japanese Animated Series growing up? What did you like so much about these cartoons? Do you think watching these shows influenced you to collect diecast Japanese robots?

Definitely Voltes V. Local TV stations were a major influence to the kids that time. I watched Voltes V every week and always looked forward to watching the next episodes. Voltes V has always been my favorite and it surely influenced me in my passion for toys that were connected to classic anime series, which then lead me into collecting vintage Japanese robot toys.

Kim's Vintage Voltes V Diecast Metal toy made in Japan by Poppy in 1977. This version is very rare as it displays yellow elbow jonts. The more common version has red elbow joints.

As a child, who bought you your toys? Do you have any special memories of going to a toy store and buying a toy you really wanted?

Again, my mom didn’t really buy me any Japanese robot toys, and I would have to settle playing with my brother’s toys, with his permission of course! ;)

Years later, when was it that you had decided to seriously start collecting these toys? Did you ever want to own a toy store? Tell us how you started selling toys.

I started buying vintage Japanese toys in 1999. It was a great feeling to be able to afford all the toys I never had as a kid. I was instantly addicted to buying these toys and I started buying all the toys I’ve always wanted. I never really planned on having a toy store as I knew it would be very difficult to profit from selling toys. They are expensive to begin with, and you have a limited market to sell to. But in 2002 I decided to sell toys online.

If someone wanted to start selling vintage Japanese toys, would one have to have a lot of money to invest knowing most of the rare ones have such high price tags? Would you say this sort of business is lucrative?

In my personal experience with selling Japanese toys, you have a very limited market if you only concentrate selling old, vintage Japanese toys. This is because your market is mainly composed of serious collectors of this type of toy genre. But if you combine selling vintage Japanese toys, with their new release counterparts, and other new release toys, I think it would be very profitable business.

Do you have doubles of the ones you sell to keep for your personal collection? Do you sell some toys that aren't in your collection? (Please give examples) What makes a particular toy worthy of being included in your personal collection?

I don’t have doubles right now. There are a few times when I sell some of the toys in my personal collection to make room for better ones. When I find a toy that is in better condition than the one I have, I would sell mine to buy that toy. It’s always better to search for ones that are in the best condition possible. For me, a toy is worth keeping as long as it makes you happy when looking at it. I don’t really play with my toys, and they are usually stored and presented for display only.

Walk us through your personal collection!

You can view my collection at www.kimcastro.com. I am very proud of the toys in my collection as most of them are in very good condition, and some of them have never been played with.

Do you feel as if your collection is complete?

MY collection is definitely not complete, and I have a way to go. I’m not looking forward to complete any particular series. I find that it is the journey in collecting that is the most FUN part for me.

Being one of the authorities in vintage die-cast Japanese robot toys from the 70's, do you have any of these toys in possession that other collectors would want to have?

I have the Mekanda DX Gassin Technical Set made by Bullmark in 1977.

This is Kim's Mekanda-Robo DX Technical Gassin Deluxe gift box set, made my Bullmark in 1977. This toy set is extreemely rare to find and complete sets that come with their original packaging make it almost impossible to find.

These toys have been such a big part of your life, as they have given you so much joy since childhood. Try to put in words your passion and love for these toys. Any words of advice for other collectors?

Buy the toys you like. Don’t think that completing the whole series will satisfy you because it never will. The hunting and searching for the toy you’ve been dreaming of is both a challenge and pleasurable. Collecting vintage Japanese robot toys made me realize that everything in this world has its own value, and you certainly have to have the passion to enjoy collecting vintage Japanese robot toys.

We at Nostalgia Manila love all things vintage, and have a great respect for history and things that are old. A new generation of anime and toy fans has emerged, and manufacturers have released updated versions of classic favorites. Soul Of Chogokin has been a very successful toy series that has done this. We'd like your personal opinion on this subject: Do these updated versions come close to matching their original counterparts? What are the things you like about updated versions? What are things you don't like about them?

Personally, I am happy they’ve released new versions of classic Japanese robot toys. They are affordable to the new market (being the new generation of fans), as compared to old vintage ones that are highly collectible and very expensive. So these new releases offer an alternative for anime fans and toy enthusiasts. The new toys are more accurate and detailed; much closer to the original anime design, but somehow the feeling of these toys being classic (old vintage) is missing.

Most people feel that classics should never be rewritten or remade. Of course there are those rare exceptions that some are able to remake or redo a classic, and push it even further to the point of something groundbreaking. The Hero Channel (a cable subsidiary of ABS-CBN) has recently unveiled Voltes V Evolution, in which the producers have cast new teen idols of today to redub the voices of the classic animated series that has been close to the hearts of many. It was the idea of the producers to bring in new talent to promote this classic to a new and younger generation of audiences; and in doing this, so many of the original fans of the Voltes V series have been turned off by this new concept. What is your reaction to the new Voltes V Evolution series?

We the first generation of the classic anime fans are definitely disappointed, but we should try to be more open to this new idea. Since Voltes V Evolution is dubbed in Tagalog, this new version will be something more kids will surely understand. Although I am a fan of the original Voltes V series, I still appreciate the efforts made by the producers of Voltes V Evolution.

Kim will be sharing with us his amazing toy collection in an exciting new weekly segment called Kim Castros Toy Treasures, only here at Nostalgia Manila! STAY TUNED!

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